Formnext’s 6th annual Start-up Challenge acknowledges budding additive manufacturing companies for their impressive ideas and innovative developments.
Formnext recognized five startups for their promising futures and admirable contributions to the industry. The startups that managed to catch the eyes of the jury were: Addiguru (USA), AM Flow (the Netherlands), Molyworks (USA), NematX (Switzerland), and TOffeeAM (UK). In addition to this, Molyworks went further to win the AM Ventures Impact Award — offered for the first time as a part of the Formnext Start-up Challenge. These entrepreneurs will now move forward to present their ideas during the upcoming Formnext Connect.
The winners come from all corners of the 3D printing spectrum — from improving post-processing and finding solutions for automated design to monitoring production and the development of new synthetic materials. The affordability and practicality of these innovations will surely play a part in broadening the reach of the AM industry across the world.
AM Ventures Impact Award
Formnext along with AM Ventures have announced a brand new award within their 2020 Start-up Challenge. The AM Ventures Impact Award recognized the importance of sustainable management. They looked at topics surrounding both people and the planet from different standpoints (including technology, application, business, and value chain perspectives).
Arno Held, CEO of AM Ventures, states:
“Making a contribution to sustainable development is no longer just an added bonus for startups; it’s crucial to their success, and it also provides them with major business opportunities. Plus, more and more investors are factoring sustainability into their decision-making, and it won’t be long before they all do.”
The Ideas Behind The Names
Addiguru hopes to make AM production more cost-efficient. They offer a user-friendly and affordable real-time monitoring system for additive manufacturing with manufacturer-agnostic monitoring technology. This system is said to be compatible with both emerging metal AM units and developed ones alike. It features a camera (facing the powder bed from above) that can be hooked up to an external computer. The software recognizes relevant images which are then sent to a self-learning algorithm to be further analyzed so anomalies can be detected and the user can be notified of them.
AM-Flow focusses on bettering post-processing for larger 3D printing lot sizes. This Dutch startup developed an end-to-end post-processing solution to offer the AM sector Industry 4.0 technology through the digitization and automation of these processes (which reduces labor costs). Technologies like 3D shape recognition, industrial image processing systems, and AI software are used to automate the processes (such as component recognition, handling, sorting, packing, and transport) that follow the 3D printing of a product.
Molyworks wants to recycle scrap metal into AM powder. It’s obvious why this startup won the AM Ventures Impact Award — it has great potential to limit the resources that need to be used, because Molyworks says that metal production alone accounts for 7% of the world’s energy consumption. Their Greyhound system (currently) consisting of a mobile melting furnace and an innovative powder atomization system was developed by the founders of Molyworks in a garage in 2015. The recycled components are meant to be sent back through the production process to manufacture more metal powder to use for metal AM. The team has performed trials using 21 different metals (e.g., titanium, steel, nickel, aluminum, copper). The team recently revealed a combined mobile unit to melt scrap metal into AM-ready powder on site!
NematX — having developed a new high-performance polymer — hopes to produce even more robust components. A spinoff from ETH Zurich, the company hopes to be a leader in the next generation of 3D printing (with its new polymer) and surpass current benchmarks in corresponding end-use components. They specifically target the aerospace, medicine, electronics, and industrial applications industries which often expose parts to harsh environmental conditions and thus may benefit from their recent findings.
TOffeeAM invented an automated design software which ONLY needs design space, fluid/material conditions, and performance that needs to be optimized in a certain component. This company now licenses this software “TOffee” (which can optimize individual parts as well as entire systems) to its customers. The software has already been implemented in Formula 1 and in the aviation, and oil and gas industries to make the implementation of AM designs more potent and to “allow for better-performing components through effective, self-learning process monitoring”.
The Significance Of Their Contributions
What makes any startup special? It’s all about the creativity, the uniqueness, and the impact that this new business has in its niche. All five of the recognized startups offer something special to the 3D printing world, be it in terms of sustainability or efficiency.
It’s great of Formnext to recognize the efforts of these new entrepreneurs and with the ideas that I’ve seen so far, I can be sure that there are a lot of great things to come from them!